Sam Zagoria, a Washington Post political reporter after World War II who returned to the paper in the 1980s as its ombudsman and in the intervening years worked as a congressional aide, labor relations official and consumer product safety commissioner, died April 2 at his home in San Francisco. He was 98.
The cause was kidney failure, said his son Ron Zagoria, a radiologist.
During Mr. Zagoria’s first stint at The Post, from 1946 to 1954, he covered District government and Capitol Hill and served as president of the Washington Newspaper Guild. After receiving a Nieman fellowship to Harvard University — where a class with the eminent economist and future labor secretary John T. Dunlop proved transformative — he transitioned to a government career.
He spent a decade as administrative assistant to a liberal-moderate Republican, Sen. Clifford P. Case of New Jersey, before President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Mr. Zagoria in 1965 to the National Labor Relations Board. President Richard M. Nixon did not reappoint him in 1969, and Mr. Zagoria joined the U.S. Conference of Mayors as director of the labor-management relations service.
In 1978, President Jimmy Carter nominated Mr. Zagoria to a Republican seat on the Federal Election Commission, but the candidate asked to have his name withdrawn after GOP leaders protested that Mr. Zagoria was too liberal and not among the names they suggested. Soon afterward, Carter appointed Mr. Zagoria unopposed to a seven-year term on the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
He left the commission in 1983 to return to The Post for a two-year term as ombudsman, addressing reader complaints and making his own critiques of news judgment, tone and perceived bias.
Samuel David Zagoria was born in Somerville, N.J., on April 9, 1919. His father was a produce wholesaler. He edited his high school newspaper and graduated in 1941 from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He then served in the Army Air Forces in the Pacific during World War II.
After serving as ombudsman of The Post, Mr. Zagoria became a labor arbitrator and worked as an adjunct professor of journalism at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton and of labor relations at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.
He also taught journalism classes and wrote for publications including the Columbia Journalism Review. He was the author of “Public Workers and Public Unions” (1972) and “The Ombudsman: How Good Governments Handle Citizens’ Grievances” (1988).
A former resident of College Park, Md., Mr. Zagoria lived for many years in Winston-Salem and most recently in San Francisco. Survivors include his wife of 76 years, Sylvia Bomse Zagoria of San Francisco; three children, Paul Zagoria of Baltimore, Marjorie Olds of Ithaca, N.Y., and Ronald Zagoria of San Francisco; a sister; 11 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.